Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Kolkata Knight Riders 176 for 4 (Lynn 62, Uthappa 36) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 175 for 4 (Kohli 68*, McCullum 38, Russell 3-31) by six wickets
Agarkar: KKR doing the basic things better than RCB
Kolkata Knight Riders gained two significant advantages even before a ball was bowled in Bengaluru. First, Dinesh Karthik chose to bowl at a favourable chasing ground. Then, Knight Riders found out that AB de Villiers was out with a viral fever. Both those factors had a decisive impact as Knight Riders chased down a target of 176 with relative ease, with five balls to spare, consigning Royal Challengers to their fifth loss in seven games.
Without their highest run-scorer of the season, Royal Challengers had to employ a less attacking approach, aiming for par instead of a 200-plus score, like the one they got in the previous game against Chennai Super Kings after losing the toss. All they could manage was 175 - the par score in day-night games at this ground in the IPL since 2015 has been 172 - even with a terrific, 44-ball 68 from Virat Kohli.
Even on a pitch that was turning appreciably, Knight Riders had too much firepower. Led by Chris Lynn's 62, along with rapid cameos from Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik, Knight Riders cruised home against a bowling attack that lacked penetration and sufficient defensive skill.
Sussing out conditions
Brendon McCullum was brought into the XI due to de Villiers' sickness. Quinton de Kock, despite coming off a half-century in the previous game, hadn't quite found his fluency. For Royal Challengers' batting line-up, already weakened significantly, a strong start was imperative.
McCullum and de Kock scored 40 runs in the Powerplay, 11 runs below their average score in the period this season. McCullum soon found his hitting rhythm, though, with two fours and two sixes in two overs after the Powerplay, lifting the scoring rate to over eight.
Soon after the time-out, however, Royal Challengers lost their way. De Kock holed out to deep cover. McCullum toe-ended a pull to the keeper. Two balls later, Manan Vohra was bowled off the inside edge. A score of 67 for 0 quickly turned to 75 for 3.
Kohli owns the death
De Villiers' absence also hampered Kohli's scoring template. Aware that his presence in the death overs could marginally increase the utility of Royal Challengers' score, Kohli was cautious early in his innings. He took 18 balls to score 20, but with Royal Challengers at 100 for 3 in 14 overs at that point, Kohli couldn't wait any longer.
Royal Challengers hit nine boundaries in six overs thereon; Kohli hit six of them. Royal Challengers scored 75 from there; Kohli hit 48 of them. His innings included three sixes, two of which were a direct result of a strong bottom hand through the line of the ball, hit in the arc between long-on and deep midwicket. Royal Challengers had 175, a score that seemed below par given the ground dimensions.
Theatrics of T20s
Before the start of the chase, Knight Riders' target of 176 - one less than the score Royal Challengers needed to beat Delhi Daredevils earlier this season and one more than the score Knight Riders needed in the reverse fixture against Royal Challengers at the Eden Gardens - seemed insufficient.
Lynn and Narine made a strong start before a rain interruption that lasted 30 minutes. Then, with Knight Riders seemingly in control, the game drifted on with the illusion of control. Royal Challengers made a strong comeback in that period, including having Andre Russell caught for a golden duck on his 30th birthday.
The equation by then came down to 43 off 24 balls. But just when the game seemed in the balance, Knight Riders broke the chase open, much like those two previous games Royal Challengers were involved in.